Scorching Reynolds blasts go-ahead HR to extend hit streak

June 19th, 2024

PITTSBURGH -- It was a scorcher at PNC Park on Wednesday, starting at 87 degrees at first pitch and getting hotter and more humid as the game progressed.

But if there was one thing that might be hotter than the weather on Pittsburgh’s north shore right now, it’s Bryan Reynolds’ bat. The Pirates’ slugger clubbed a solo shot in the eighth inning for the game’s only run, beating the Reds and winning the rubber match of the series, 1-0.

The homer extended Reynolds’ hitting streak to 17 games, the longest active streak in the Majors and tied for the longest of his career, which he accomplished as a rookie in 2019. But it can’t be ignored that he is once again mashing in the month of June. His .346 career batting average in the month of June is the second-best of any Pirate with at least 400 plate appearances. During this 17-game hit streak -- which of course started June 1 -- he’s hit .343 (24-for-70) with three home runs and seven doubles.

So is there anything special about June that helps him find that extra gear?

"I don't know,” Reynolds said, cracking a grin. “I've got a good history in June I guess. So, need to make it a longer month, I guess."

“It's his favorite month I guess,” said Mitch Keller, who tossed seven-plus scoreless innings. “Guy rakes. I wouldn't really put it to one month either. I think he's a really good hitter the whole season. Maybe just June is a little bit more special.”

The earnest answer from Reynolds is a little less entertaining -- seeing the ball well, putting the barrel to the pitch, hitting it where they aren’t -- but manager Derek Shelton has pointed to Reynolds’ left-handed swing as the indicator of when he normally heats up.

"He stays settled,” Shelton said. “He stays stacked. Whatever you want to call it. Oneil [Cruz]'s got it too, right now. They look strong in their legs and they're taking really good, aggressive swings."

In his 15 games prior to this hitting streak, Reynolds was hitting just .231 with a .574 OPS. Two aspects seem to be fueling that. Part of it is his set up, where he has brought his feet closer together instead of being as crouched, which can be seen comparing a pop up against the Blue Jays on May 31 compared to his homer Wednesday.

He’s also crushing fastballs. His homer Wednesday was off a Nick Martinez changeup, but he has clobbered fastballs all month. He’s hitting .375 against fastballs with two home runs and five doubles, good for a .650 slugging percentage this month. You have to go back to his All-Star campaign in 2021 to find the last time his slug and average against fastballs was that high.

Safe to say that swing is where he and the team wants it.

“It's been in sync for three or four weeks,” Shelton said. “You can tell when he gets in the box that he's in sync. The way he looks, he looks so hitterish, and he's looked that way for a good portion of the month, left-handed."

The Pirates certainly need their big bat to stay hot. The rotation has been solid all season, and the bullpen has heated up of late, especially the backend. Colin Holderman and David Bednar made quick work of the Reds in the eighth and ninth Wednesday, picking up Keller after he struck out seven over seven-plus innings.

The Pirates are in the mix for a playoff spot near the midpoint of the season and have a series win over a division rival in their back pocket now, but they need to continue to get contributions from the rotation, bullpen and hitters.

"Just playing good baseball,” Reynolds said. “We've got to do all three to play good baseball. That's our goal."